Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema during a press briefing at the party's office in Braamfontein on 23 January 2017.
PRETORIA – Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema on Monday warned pro-Zuma activists not to attempt disrupting a mega protest, incorporating numerous opposition political parties, scheduled for Pretoria this week.
“We are going to get the letter [of approval for the protest] which we are going to publish. All the formalities have been met. We are not going to play those games they tried to play with Save South Africa,” Malema said while addressing a joint media briefing in Pretoria, flanked by top officials of other opposition parties.
“All those people who intimidate people and threaten violence, this is a peaceful march, but we are not scared of anyone like that. No one is going to take away our right to protest peacefully, in a violent manner. The SA Police Service does nothing because it is also captured. We don’t want that.”
Malema said supporters of President Jacob Zuma must be careful not to interfere with the protest.
“Let them organise their own events if they want to. If they want to organise Zuma’s birthday, let them organise it there. Not anywhere close to where we are marching. Here [in Pretoria] we have met the requirements to be here. We are not going to be bullied by anyone, not even those in that uniform from PEP Store which they wear at Luthuli House. Not that so-called Youth League will scare us. Nothing like that,” Malema charged.
“There isn’t going to be any form of intimidation here. If they come with ANC t-shirts, SA Communist Party t-shirts, Cosatu t-shirts – that would be to join this march, peacefully. They will subject to this leadership. They are not going to come and hijack things. They are behaving in a rowdy manner, like they did at Uncle Kathy’s memorial service in Durban. They won’t do it here. That I can tell you. They won’t even try.”
The African National Congress Youth League disrupted the memorial service of struggle icon Ahmed Kathrada at the weekend in Durban. The pro-Zuma ANCYL booed axed finance minister Pravin Gordhan and ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize, disrupting their addresses at the memorial service with songs.
Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Phumzile van Damme said one of their members was injured during the protests on Friday, but that does not deter the opposition party.
“I want to echo Mr Malema by saying we’re also not going to be intimidated by threats. One of our members was attacked on Friday but that is not going to deter us. We are going to continue with the actions we have planned,” said Van Damme.
“I would also like to encourage members of the public to continue on a daily basis, to continue engaging in forms of protest. It doesn’t have to be big marches. It can be small actions people take in small groups. I would like to encourage them to continue with the pressure.”
Several opposition parties announced on Monday that another mega protest is planned for this week in Pretoria as they increase pressure on Zuma to quit.
At the joint media briefing, senior officials of opposition parties including the DA, EFF, African Christian Democratic Party, Congress of the People, United Democratic Movement (UDM), and the Inkhatha Freedom Party (IFP) pledged to march to the Union Buildings on Wednesday, demanding an immediate Zuma ouster.
“President Zuma’s midnight Cabinet reshuffle started a domino effect, with the rand tanking, South Africa’s downgrading by two ratings agencies as well as the downgrading of some banks and Eskom. Junk status makes South Africa an unsafe investment destination and international banks will think twice before lending money to us,” said UDM leader Bantu Holomisa.
“Our credibility is shot and the knock-on effects in terms of the cost of living is going to hit out poor people the hardest.”
The opposition parties said Zuma can no longer deliver on his mandate.
“The influence of the Gupta family on our president, including several ministers, means President Zuma has been bought by the highest bidder, and that South Africa is being run from Saxonwold,” said Holomisa.
“From Wednesday onwards, the aforementioned political parties shall embark on a programme of periodic mass action to ensure that South Africans, and their country, are protected from the brutal hand of Mr Jacob Zuma. We now announce to all South Africans, Africa and the world that we have declared April 12 a ‘National Day of Action’.”
Holomisa said already there has been indications of civic society groups, including Save South Africa, who have vowed to join the National Day of Action protests.
IFP Youth Brigade national chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said those with contrary views to the opposition parties must organise their own protests.
“To want to intimidate people is very wrong. What happened in Durban is a clear indication that times that lie ahead are going to be difficult for everybody. The mentality of the, particularly of the remnants of the [ANC] Youth League, or whatever is left of it, have decided that they are going to deal with any anti-Zuma sentiment in a violent way. The State machinery, the police in particular, and other agencies have a responsibility to ensure that they protect everybody. It cannot be a willy-nilly approach,” said Hlengwa.
“It is high time the State security agencies stand on the side of the people, and for them to protect us. We know that we are dealing with a character here, in the president, who is not going to go down without a fight. We need to ensure that we have all our ducks in a row.”
African People’s Convention leader Themba Godi said the mobilisation against Zuma will not end with the protests on Wednesday.
“We may have a march on Wednesday but that does not mean we will achieve what you seek to achieve in one day. It is a process. We are raising the consciousness of people. Their awareness about the issues which impact on their lives. So we believe that [National Day of Action] marks the beginning of a process that should at all times anchor on those matters that impact on the material conditions of people’s lives,” said Godi.
Other political parties – African Independent Congress, Agang SA, Shosholoza Progressive Party – were also represented and will be taking part in the mass action.
Last week, numerous cities across South Africa were brought to a standstill as thousands of people participated in a strike organised by Save SA.